That the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence outline the number of people, with a breakdown of male, female and children, staying in each of the 53 Direct Provision facilities in the state at present and a yearly breakdown of men, women & children as to how many have been in the system for less than a year, between one and two years, two and three years, three and four years, four and five years and so forth up to those waiting the longest.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh

I am responding to this motion on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence who is unavoidably detained elsewhere.

I should firstly explain that the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Department of Justice and Equality is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. RIA currently provides full board accommodation and ancillary services to 4,627 persons in 34 centres across the State according to the INIS database.

It is important to note that RIA itself has no function in determining whether someone should stay or not in its accommodation. Its function is to provide accommodation and related services to those who have sought international protection and who otherwise have no means of supporting themselves. In essence, RIA accommodates all those who make a claim for international protection and who seek accommodation until such time as they; leave voluntarily; are removed - either by way of deportation or Dublin II transfer; are granted refugee status or subsidiary protection; or are granted leave to remain, either through the process set out in the Immigration Act, 1999 or are granted permission to remain in the State on some other basis.

In relation to the first part of the statistics sought, it is not possible in the time provided to give these to the Senator in the format requested. However, it should be noted that similar statistics in respect of the end of 2012 will be provided in the 2012 RIA Annual Report which will be published on the RIA website, www.ria.gov.ie, in the forthcoming days. RIA has further expanded its annual report in 2012 and provided a comprehensive centre-by-centre breakdown of the facilities available to children and adults residing in RIA accommodation.

In relation to the second part of the request for statistics, which refers to the length of time that has elapsed since RIA residents made an initial application for asylum, the breakdown is as follows, acknowledging the difficulty in presenting these figures verbally:

As at 18th July 2013, there were 575 residents in accommodation centres who had made their application for asylum less than one year previously, 257 females and 318 males. There were 430 who had applied between one & two years previously (201 females and 229 males); 484 between two & three years previously (231 females and 253 males); 599 between three & four years previously (270 females and 329 males); 690 between 4 & 5 years previously (333 females and 357 males); 702 between 5 & 6 years previously (345 females and 357 males); 543 between 6 & 7 years previously (298 females & 245 males); and 604 who had made their applications more than 7 years previously (292 females and 312 males). It was not possible in the time provided to further breakdown the respective male and female statistics as to whether they were an adult or a minor.

The overall length of time taken to process cases to their finality is determined not just by the length of time taken to process the cases by the independent refugee determination bodies and by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and but also by the length of time taken by the applicant / their legal representative to respond to requests for information, etc. In some cases applicants choose to change their legal representative and understandably it takes some time for the new representative to become familiar with the case. In many cases the applicant will not agree with the decisions reached and will continue to use every avenue open to them including referral to the Courts in that regard. This obviously impacts on the time the same applicants spend in the process and also in the Direct Provision system. While not suggesting that applicants are not entitled to the protection of the courts and to due process, a consequence of these actions is to extend the length of time the applicant spends in the Direct Provision system.

INIS has no desire to have applicants remain in the system any longer than the minimum period it takes to process their case. However, ultimately a balance has to be struck between maintaining the integrity of the State’s protection and immigration systems and the case put forward by the individual applicant all of which must be considered within the legal requirements and obligations. In the first instance requirements are set-down in primary and secondary legislation and these requirements are constantly evolving taking into account interpretation of the law by the Courts at both national and EU level.

The Minister accepts that the direct provision system is not ideal and many residents spend too long there. But it is a system which facilitates the State providing a roof over the heads of those seeking protection or the right to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds or other reasons. It allows the State to do it in a manner that facilitates resources being used economically in circumstances where the State is in financial difficulty.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which the Minister intends to re-publish, should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain applications. It will do this by making provision for the establishment of a single application procedure, so that applicants can be provided with a final decision on all aspects of their protection application in a more straight forward and timely fashion.

ENDS